Virginia restaurant fills half of its tables with mannequins for reopening

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A Michelin-starred restaurant will comply with physical distancing orders when it reopens by filling half of its dining room with mannequins.

“We wanted the room to be full and fun and I always loved the models,” said Patrick O’Connell, chef and owner of The Inn at Little Washington. As it happens welcome Carol Off. “They’re great to have around. “

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of many restaurants around the world. But in some US states, many are expected to reopen with warnings like lower capacity and strict distancing guidelines.

The State of Virginia announced this week that some restaurants will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity. The Inn at Little Washington, near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., plans to open on May 29.

So, why models?

Originally, O’Connell said he planned to remove all other tables from the restaurant. But above each table hangs a beautiful lampshade, he said, and he feared that people would collide with it.

So he found something else.

[« The mannequins] can be positioned as desired, but as is, they can occupy all the other tables, “he said.

“There will be about eight to 10 feet between the tables, each table will always have a lampshade, but your neighbors may be mannequins. “

The hostel worked with a theater company from northern Virginia to dress the models. (The Inn in Little Washington)

The hostel worked with Signature Theater, a northern Virginia theater company, to find a way to follow the distancing guidelines with a little more whimsy.

“We jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with another of Virginia’s major cultural destinations to support their reopening,” said Maggie Boland, executive director of Signature Theater, in an emailed statement.

“Signature costume store manager Frederick Deeben got to work pulling costumes and accessories to dress the models – the dining couples – in a 1940s-style dress.”

O’Connell said the Signature Theater wanted the costumed models to look out into space and “and they shouldn’t really trump other living guests.”

“We sort of” populated the room “as they say,” he said, “so that even if you came in as the first guest, you could feel that you were out and that you were in a trendy restaurant. “

O’Connell says he also wanted to stay true to the way his restaurant usually feels, so one of the models is a folded kneeling young man proposing to an elegant woman, also a mannequin, while other mannequins come together to watch.

“We are known for a place where people often offer,” said O’Connell. “It happens at least once a month. A place for a special occasion. “

“It’s not strange at all”

When asked if he found it a bit scary, O’Connell replied, “Not at all. “

“In fact, much more real than terrifying. It’s like they came to life in space. There is something about the magnificent restaurant space that has changed them. They don’t feel or look like models at all, ”he said. said.

“Each table has some sort of shine on it. Each table has its own little scene and they look really real and they feel really real and they give you a kind of comforting feeling rather than something strange. It’s not strange at all. “

This type of “never complaining” type of guest will also receive wine and fine service, he said.

“The idea is that after a regular guest has had a few glasses of wine, everything will feel completely real. “


Written by Alexandria Kazia. Interview by Tayo Bero.

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